Search billions of records on



Nancy Turnbull was born on the 3 February 1917 at Masterton, the daughter of William Anthony and Valentine Winifred Turnbull nee Brocherie.  She attended  Hawera High School and later worked as a dental mechanic.  On the 26 December 1938 she married Desmond Thomas Leathem at Hawera.


From the early 1950s to late 1960s, Nancy was receptionist for Dr Buist and Dr Armstrong's surgery, but she is probably best remembered in Hawera, and the wider Taranaki community for her work in local theatre.


Nancy had the ability to transform either herself or someone else into a character to be played.  She was able to direct the most non theatrical person into a performance of a lifetime.


Her first production was No Room at the Inn in co-operation with John Brough.  Other productions included Of Mice and Men, The End of the Golden Weather by New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason, and the truly memorable production of Hinemoa and Tutanekai at the Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth.  She produced many successful one-act plays for the national drama competitions.


A memorable part she played was the cheerful murderess from Arsenic and Old Lace.  She always lived her characters so that her performance would seem an extension of reality.  She was a born actress, mimic, and comic and she used these talents on a daily basis, even when she wasn't on the Opera House stage.  Once she forgot to put the silver coins in the Christmas pudding, so put them instead in the baked potatoes, forgetting to inform the innocent eaters who were trying politely not to comment on the strange bits of metal in their food.


The family home bulged at the seams with amateur actors and actresses arriving to rehearse for Repertory productions.


Nancy had suffered from rheumatic fever from the age of 15, and was never fully healthy, suffering from arthritis badly.  This gave her an extra understanding of people who often sought her wise counselling.


Nancy Leathem died on the 15 July 1970 at Rotorua aged 53 years, far too young.  Her loss was widely felt.



Jan Hardy, Australia (daughter)